This old man — he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb.
This old man, my old man, my man, is a long haul trucker. Here last week, gone this week. Back the week after.
Knick-knack, paddy-whack give a dog a bone.
I’m singing to the big old hound lying on the kitchen lino. Useless thing. All saggy skin and knobbly joints anymore. Snufflin’ in his sleep after rabbits he’s never caught. My old man sings that Elvis song to him. Says it’s because Booger is my dog, ain’t no friend of his. Which is why Booger sleeps on his side of the bed when he’s home? I don’t think so.
This old man, he played two. He played knick-knack on my shoe.
We met in ’84. I was still married to McGuire. Good match that. Family owned the American Tire store. Right on the turnpike; tires for the semis and heavy equipment. Rotary breakfasts, second Tuesdays. He saved me the blueberry danish, we took our coffee with sugar, no cream. We were real sweethearts, until I got knocked up. It came to nothing. I made sure of that. I could tell you some damned sad story about how we drifted apart. Not being able to get over the loss of the baby and all. But I’d be lying.
He played three.
My old man walked in one afternoon, rolling slightly the way cowboys and truckers do. He was holding an invoice in his hand. Bitching about not being able to read it. Some fool left it on his windshield in last night’s rain. And we were lucky that he’d overslept so that he was still here when we opened. Otherwise he’d have just started up out of town and not paid until he came back this way next week.
He played knick-knack on my knee.
I fixed a new copy, took his check, recorded it in the ledger. Apologized sincerely. American Tire. Good customer service. Timely, correct, polite. Membership plaque from the County Christian Businessmen’s Association right there on the front counter says so.
And the next month when he strolled in, stacked jeans, black boots, needed a couple of quarts of 20/50. He smiled again.
This old man he played four.
Two weeks after that he dropped by with a check from Atlanta Consolidators — just on his way through. I called down to Ruthie on the Atlanta desk. Yeah, she said, he asked if she could find him a favor. Bring something up to me. She said, yes. Yes he could. We talked horses, he has a nice way of going, she said. I smiled.
He played knick-knack on my door.
I stepped up into the truck. You can see a long way from the cab of a Peterbilt. It had a nice bed, a little fridge and a microwave, a tiny TV. We made popcorn. Ate it out of a big bowl while driving through the little towns in Iowa and Nebraska and Kansas, making up stories about the people we drove by.
This old man, my old man, my thumb, my shoes, my knee, my door. I’m still singing to the dog.
But then I forgot … five, six,
Five, all I can think of is Willie and the Hand Jive. He did that. The thing with his hands. There, at the wedding. Just like in the song. All dressed up in that vest, new boots, and pretty damned sober for a man about to commit the sin of matrimony. We were both pretty damned sober. For the ceremony at least. There was some drinking afterwards.
He played seven…
Seven’s what? Eleven? Eight is on my gate. I remember a couple more words. The dog rolls over and grumbles.
Ten, oh yeah, ten.
He plays ten.
He plays knick-knack, all over again.
Originally published in Concho River Review .Vol. 29, No. 1, pg. 6 — Spring of 2015.